Punchers take third in the state

CASPER – The Big Piney volleyball team finished third at the Class 2A state championships, bringing home hardware for the second year in a row.

The Punchers went 3-1 at state, falling to Wright in the semifinals, but rallying to win the next two matches to take third.

In the third-place match, Big Piney took on Greybull in a rematch of the West Regional championship.

Greybull led 20-15 in the first game, but the Punchers rallied to score 10 of the last 13 points and win the game, 25-23.

With the second game tied at 10, Cadee Mager, Grace Tanner and Anna Stoutenburg got back-to-back-to-back kills that helped Big Piney pull ahead and eventually win the game, 25-20.

Greybull jumped out to a 12-3 lead in the third game and held on to win it, 25-13, to force a fourth game.

Neither team had much of an advantage for the start of the fourth game and they were even at 16. Big Piney, however, scored six straight to go up, 22-16. Then, leading 23-19, Mager got a kill in the corner. On the next play, Haley Hoffman set up Mager again, with a back set, and Mager spiked it to the floor to win the game, 23-19, and secure Big Piney’s third-place team finish.

Sundance beat Wright, 3-0, to win the 2A team title.

The Punchers started the tournament strong and took down Niobrara County in three games, 25-19, 25-19 and 25-22. Late in the third game, Mic Butner, Libby Runyan and Tanner all had kills while Mager blocked a pair of shots to close out the match.

In the semifinals against Wright, Big Piney started strong again and had a late, 21-17 lead in the first game. Wright came back and tied the game at 24, but then both teams had a hard time getting a two-point advantage to close out the game. Anna Stoutenburg blocked two late spikes that tied the game at 28 and at 30, but Wright got the last two points to take the first game, 32-30. Wright then won the next two games, 25-17 and 25-17, to reach the finals and force Big Piney into the consolation semis.

To reach the third-place match, Big Piney had to go through Big Horn in an elimination contest. Big Piney won the first game comfortably, getting blocks from Stoutenburg, Mager and Runyan while Butner spiked a ball into a hole to put the Punchers up, 19-6. Big Horn got some late points, but Tanner eventually got a cross-court kill for the win, 25-15.

The Punchers led 23-20 in the second game, but Big Horn came back, tied the game at 24 and eventually won the game, 26-24.

Big Piney jumped out to an 11-3 lead in the third game and held on to win it, 25-18.

The fourth game was close, but Big Horn pulled away late to win it 25-20 and force a deciding game five.

In the deciding game to 15, Big Horn took an early, 6-2 lead. Big Piney fought back and tied it six. The teams were then tied at 7, 9 and 10. A Runyan block and a Melissa Merritt ace gave Big Piney a 14-11 lead and, after a long rally featuring stuffed shots and diving digs, Big Horn hit the ball out of bounds and Big Piney won the game, 15-13, to win the match and advance to the third-place match against Greybull.

Cadee Mager and Grace Tannner were both named to the all-state team after the tournament. Big Piney was one of only three schools that had two all-state players selected. Mager and Tanner also scored 2A Southwest all-conference honors along with Butner, Runyan and Hoffman.

Big Piney won the 2A Southwest Conference with a perfect 6-0 mark. The Punchers also won a regional crown, and finished 23-8 overall.

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